What’s for Dinner?

Home-cooked Asian-style Dinner

Served with rice.

Dessert

Russian Salad

Ingredients

1/3 cup diced cooked potatoes
2/3 cup diced cooked carrots
2/3 cup cooked green peas
2/3 cup diced cooked turnips
2/3 cup cooked French-style green beans
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp strained lemon juice
2 tbsp strained orange juice
1/4 cup cold water
1 pack unflavored gelatin

Method

  1. Combine potatoes, carrots, peas, turnips, and beans in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Add the mayonnaise, then toss to coat vegetables well.
  3. Combine the juices and water in a small saucepan, then add gelatin. Stir over hot water until dissolved.
  4. Add to vegetable mixture, stirring until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Pour into an oiled ring mold and chill until firm.
  6. Before serving, unmold onto serving platter and fill center with diced, cooked vegetables, if desired.
  7. Garnish with additional green peas.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Creative Cooking Course

Regular Physical Activity Can Enhance Cognition in Children Who Need It Most

A common school-age stereotype is that smart kids are unathletic. However, as a recent study lead by Associate Professor Keita Kamijo at the University of Tsukuba and Assistant Professor Toru Ishihara at Kobe University shows, physical activity is linked to better cognitive ability, which is in turn related to academic performance in school. Understanding the effects of physical activity on cognition has been difficult for several reasons. “Previous studies looked at the issue too broadly,” explains Professor Kamijo, “When we broke down the data, we were able to see that physical activity helps children the most if they start out with poor executive function.”

Executive functions refer to three types of cognitive skills. The first is the ability to suppress impulses and inhibit reflex-like behaviors or habits. To assess this ability, children were asked to indicate the color in which words like “red” and “blue” were displayed on a computer screen. This is easy when the words and colors match (“red” displayed in red font), but often requires inhibition of a reflex response when they don’t (“red” displayed in blue font). The second skill is the ability to hold information in working memory and process it. This was evaluated by testing how well children could remember strings of letters that vary in length. The third cognitive skill is mental flexibility. This was measured by asking children to frequently switch the rules for categorizing colored circles and squares from shape-based to color-based.

Professor Kamijo and Professor Ishihara, and their colleagues re-analyzed the data from previous experiments in which executive function was assessed in children before and after several months of daily intervention with physical activity, such as aerobic activities, ball games, and playing tag. They looked at a factor that was missed in the initial analyses. That is, they considered whether the effectiveness of the intervention depended on the initial baseline scores.

The researchers found that cognitive skills, which have been shown to closely associate with academic performance, improved most in children whose skills were initially poor. The team also found that increased time spent doing regular physical activity did not negatively affect cognitive function in children who started out with better cognitive functions.

The finding that daily physical activity can improve executive function in children who might need it the most has some practical implications. “Because the cognitive functions evaluated in our study are related to academic performance,” says Professor Kamijo, “we can say that daily physical activity is critical for school-aged children. Our findings can help educational institutions design appropriate systems for maximizing the effects of physical activity and exercise.”

Source: University of Tsukuba

Novel Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Protocol Can Improve Cognitive Function of Healthy Older Adults

The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center, together with the Sackler School of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, announced today that a peer-reviewed study has demonstrated for the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can significantly enhance the cognitive performance of healthy older adults.

The main areas of improvement were attention, information processing speed, and executive function, in addition to the global cognitive function, all of which typically decline with age. Moreover, there was a significant correlation between the cognitive changes and improved cerebral blood flow in specific brain locations.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Aging.

Professor Shai Efrati, Head of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research, and Head of Research & Development at Shamir Medical Center, and an Associate Professor at Sackler School of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Amir Hadanny, the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research, designed the study based on a unique HBOT protocol developed at the Sagol Center over the past 10 years. The randomized controlled clinical trial included 63 healthy adults (>64) who underwent either HBOT (n=33) or a control period (n=30) for three months. The study’s primary endpoint included a change in general cognitive function measured by a standardized comprehensive battery of computerized cognitive assessments before and after the intervention or control. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) was evaluated by a novel magnetic resonance imaging technique for brain perfusion.

“Age-related cognitive and functional decline has become a significant concern in the Western world. Major research efforts around the world are focused on improving the cognitive performance of the so-called ‘normal’ aging population,” said Prof. Efrati. “In our study, for the first time in humans, we have found an effective and safe medical intervention that can address this unwanted consequence of our age-related deterioration.”

“Over years of research, we have developed an advanced understanding of HBOT’s ability to restore brain function. In the past, we have demonstrated HBOT’s potential to improve/treat brain injuries such as stroke, traumatic brain injury and anoxic brain injury (due to sustained lack of oxygen supply) by increasing brain blood flow and metabolism,” explained Dr. Amir Hadanny. “This landmark research could have a far-reaching impact on the way we view the aging process and the ability to treat its symptoms.”

During HBOT, the patient breaths in pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber where the air pressure is increased to twice that of normal air. This process increases oxygen solubility in the blood that travels throughout the body. The added oxygen stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing. HBOT has been applied worldwide mostly to treat chronic non-healing wounds.

There is a growing body of evidence on the regenerative effects of HBOT. The researchers have demonstrated that the combined action of delivering high levels of oxygen (hyperoxia) and pressure (hyperbaric environment), leads to significant improvement in tissue oxygenation while targeting both oxygen and pressure sensitive genes, resulting in restored and enhanced tissue metabolism. Moreover, these targeted genes induce stem cell proliferation, reduce inflammation and induce generation of new blood vessels and tissue repair mechanisms.

“The occlusion of small blood vessels, similar to the occlusions which may develop in the pipes of an ‘aging’ home, is a dominant element in the human aging process. This led us to speculate that HBOT may affect brain performance of the aging population,” Prof. Efrati explained. “We found that HBOT induced a significant increase in brain blood flow, which correlated with cognitive improvement, confirming our theory. One can conjecture that similar beneficial effect of HBOT can be induced in other organs of the aging body. These will be investigated in our upcoming research.”

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Our History is a Battle Against the Microbes: We Lost Terribly Before Science, Public Health, and Vaccines Allowed Us to Protect Ourselves

Max Roser wrote . . . . . . . . .

Humanity’s history is a continuous battle between us and the microbes. For most of our history we were on the losing side.

It wasn’t even close. We were losing very decisively. Billions of children died from infectious diseases. They were the main reason why child mortality was so high: No matter where or when they were born, around half died as children. We looked at the evidence of child mortality in pre-modern times here.

The recurring epidemics of influenza, measles, cholera, diphtheria, the bubonic plague, and smallpox also killed large parts of the adult population. Within just a few years the Black Death killed half of Europe’s population. The epidemics – especially of smallpox, but also measles, typhus and other diseases – that the colonialists brought from Europe with them to the Americas killed often an even larger share of the population in many places.

The world today is obviously very different. Infectious diseases are the cause of fewer than 1-in-6 deaths, and as the world made progress against the microbes our lives became much longer. Life expectancy doubled in every world region and the global average is now 73 years.

Until recently no one knew where diseases came from

How is it possible that for millennia we were losing the battle against the microbes so awfully and then turned things around in the span of just a few generations?

It was science that laid the foundation for our success. 150 years ago nobody knew where diseases came from. Or more precisely, people thought they knew, but they were wrong.

The widely accepted idea at the time was the ‘Miasma’ theory of disease. Miasma, the theory held, was a form of “bad air” that causes disease. The word malaria is testament to the idea that ‘mal aria’ – ‘bad air’ in medieval Italian – is the cause of the disease.

Thanks to the work of a number of doctors and chemists in the second half of the 19th century humanity learned that not noxious air, but specific germs cause infectious diseases. The germ theory of disease was the breakthrough in the fight against the microbe. Scientists identified the pathogens that cause the different diseases and thereby laid the foundation for perhaps the most important technical innovation in our fight against them: vaccines.

Vaccines get your immune system ready for the battle

Vaccines protect us from infectious diseases by offering our body a training session for how to fight the germs that cause the disease.

“The fundamental idea of a vaccine is deliberate exposure to a relatively harmless or dead version of a germ. The immune system will then recognise and eliminate that germ rapidly if it is encountered again,” as vaccine developer Richard Moxon puts it.

The trick is that the ineffective form of the pathogen is not causing the disease, but resembles the effective pathogen so much that it triggers our body’s natural immune system to produce the antibodies that destroy that pathogen. The training session that it provides to the body means our immune system will recognize the invader once we become infected with the real pathogen later in life. Our immune system can quickly muster up what it learnt from the vaccine response, and immediately start fighting the pathogen.

Vaccines were not the only strategy by which we made progress against infectious diseases and today too, they are only one of many strategies that we have found in the battle against the micrrobes. Antibiotics, safe drinking water, better housing, better education, falling poverty, pasteurization, hygiene, better sanitation and other public health advancements are crucial too. And we see that now, in the COVID-19 pandemic, that there are several countries responding successfully to the virus without the help of a vaccine (we studied how they do this here).

You are only safe if everyone else is safe

Vaccines protect not only the health of the immunized person but also the health of the community. If vaccination rates are high enough the transmission of infectious diseases is interrupted in the community which means that even those who are unvaccinated gain protection.

As is so often the case in development you cannot achieve progress by yourself. Your progress towards a healthier life depends on everyone else’s progress towards a healthier life; you are only safe if others are vaccinated too. The health improvements that you cannot achieve by yourself is the sphere of public health and many of the most important interventions in the fight against infectious diseases were therefore financed socially. Public spending financed the crucial improvements in sanitation as well as many large vaccination programs.

Infectious diseases before and after the vaccine was introduced

How effective were these training sessions against infectious diseases?

In the three charts at the top, I plotted the evolution of three infectious diseases over several decades. You see the data before and after the first vaccination became available.

Smallpox was one of the worst killers in our history. Epidemiologist Donald Henderson suggests that in the last hundred years of its existence smallpox killed at least half a billion people.

Even more people were disfigured by the disease for the rest of their lives. Despite all efforts, humanity never found an effective treatment. But we invented something even better: a vaccine, the very first vaccine ever.

As the chart shows, the case count fell as the vaccine reached more and more people and improved over time.

Eventually the disease was eliminated in entire countries, then entire continents, and today the disease does not exist anywhere in the world. The smallpox vaccine made it possible to completely eradicate the disease. Its eradication has saved the lives of around 150 to 200 million people since.

The history of polio is similar, but more recent. Polio epidemics spread panic at a time that many today can still remember. Polio is an infectious disease, contracted predominantly by children, that can lead to the permanent paralysis of various body parts. Ultimately it can cause death by immobilizing the patient’s breathing muscles.

The chart shows data from the US, the country where the first vaccine was developed and used. In the first half of the last century the US suffered large outbreaks with many tens of thousands paralyzed. Patients’ only chance to survive was to be confined to a large, mechanical breathing apparatus: the so-called ‘iron lungs’.

The recurring outbreaks ended in 1955 when Jonas Salk finally developed the polio vaccine. When it was announced on April 12 it was celebrated as “more than a scientific achievement” according to Salk’s biographer Richard Carter. The vaccine, he writes, “was a folk victory, an occasion for pride and jubilation… people observed moments of silence, rang bells, honked horns, blew factory whistles, fired salutes,… took the rest of the day off, closed their schools or convoked fervid assemblies therein, drank toasts, hugged children, attended church, smiled at strangers, and forgave enemies.”

As the chart shows, these celebrations were not misplaced. Over the coming years vaccination campaigns reached many American children and the terrible epidemics ended. By 1979 the US was declared polio-free.

Today our generation has the chance to achieve for polio what has been achieved for smallpox: eradicate it completely. Thanks to the vaccine, humanity has made massive progress towards this goal. In the early 1980s there were between three- and four-hundred-thousand paralytic cases every year. In the last 12 months (as the time of writing) there were 298 polio cases globally.

Measles too was a major killer for many centuries. The WHO reports: “Before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2–3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.”

Measles is both very deadly and extremely contagious. Published estimates of the basic reproduction number (R0) – the average number of secondary cases arising from each case – range from 3.7 up to 203.

The chart shows how rapidly we made progress against this killer after the invention of the vaccine. Once it was introduced in the US, the large outbreaks of the airborne disease came to an end. The measles vaccine too changed world history and the history of millions of families.

Globally we have also made a lot of progress. Today, 85% of one-year olds receive the measles vaccine and the number of deaths has fallen from 2.6 million to 95,000 in the latest data.

Smallpox, polio, and measles are just three of the diseases we have vaccines for. We now have effective vaccines against at least 28 diseases.

I selected these three diseases because they protect us from particularly terrible diseases. And the vaccines for polio and measles stand out because even the very early stage prototypes were very efficacious; the efficacy of many other vaccines increased slowly over time as researchers made adjustments that improved them.

Science is our best strategy now

Some of the best training you ever received were the vaccines you were given in your very early childhood. Without even realizing it, you learned how to battle the pathogens that ravaged the lives of your ancestors for many millennia.

When humanity achieves very substantial progress it can become difficult to understand what the problems were that we made progress against. This is also the case for vaccine-preventable diseases. Infectious diseases that once disfigured, pained, paralyzed, and killed many of our ancestors have disappeared so far from our lives and memories that some today can afford the luxury of disregarding or even avoiding vaccination.

Today as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the first time for many of us that we experience for one infectious disease what our ancestors experienced for a whole range of them. Just as they were without protection against the diseases discussed previously, we are now facing a pathogen that we have no treatment for and no protection from.

And now, just as back then, our best hope is science. The responses from South Korea, Vietnam, and Germany show that it is possible to fight the disease successfully, but to end the suffering that COVID-19 causes our best hope is a vaccine against the virus.

We were never better equipped to battle a virus. The genome was sequenced within two weeks and since then scientists around the world have been working tirelessly to develop the vaccine that brings the pandemic to an end. The early results from the vaccine developed here at the University of Oxford are promising.

Our best strategy in the age-old fight against the germs is our collaborative, data-based effort to study the world around us and within us. Our best strategy is science.

Source : Our World in Data


Today’s Comic